More than 100 refugees rescued on Wednesday evening off the island’s north-west coast — among them a baby born at sea — will be transferred to the Kokkinotrimithia reception centre in Nicosia, the civil defence spokeswoman Olivia Michaelidou said on Thursday.
The refugees – 50 children, 20 women, and 58 men – were left stranded in rough seas in a fishing boat with a dead engine for several hours, as authorities battled bad weather and low visibility to locate and tow them safely to Latchi harbour, in Paphos.
“Upon arrival, a woman and her new-born baby were transferred to Polis Chrysochous hospital. She said she had given birth on the boat. Both the mother and the baby are in good health,” Michaelidou told the Cyprus Mail.
The Larnaca Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) had received information at around 12.44pm on Wednesday that the vessel – carrying close to 130 people – was probably in danger.
The boat was located some five hours later north west of Pomos due to bad weather, low visibility and heavy seas, with the help of a National Guard helicopter and with the use of long range thermal cameras. The boat was safely towed to Latchi at around 10pm.
According to police spokesman Andreas Angelides, officers arrested nine men of the newly-arrived group after identity checks showed they had been deported from the island in the past. Investigations continue to locate the traffickers.
The group – of Syrian origin – had sailed from Mersin in Southern Turkey, reportedly paying traffickers US$2,200 per person to be transported to Cyprus.
“The passengers spent the night in Polis Chrysochous, and after the necessary medical checks, they will be transferred to the Kokkinotrimithia reception centre in the afternoon,” Michaelidou said.
Polis Chrysochous mayor, Angelos Georgiou, said that the refugees were given food, water and milk for the children.
Police dismissed media reports on Wednesday that they were searching for a second boat with around ten passengers that was also seen in the same area.